Monday, June 25, 2012

Laughter Thoughts

After writing blog posts, I’d remember something silly or funny that happened that I didn’t include …..

In China and some in Thailand, Mcdonalds would have the actual restaurant and then generally in front, there would be a small McDonalds kiosk dedicated to the desserts of Mc-ie-des…soft serve included. Pretty convenient for those soft serve addicts that just want their fix of ice cream—they don’t have to deal with the crowd inside. In Shanghai there was one such set up; however, the dessert kiosk played music constantly. The same song. It was like a stationary ice cream truck. I think it played it is a small world. Heavens bless the employees. i would die.

One night we were walking back to our hotel from the metro. Generally there are people selling various items, one night a man was selling puppies. Cori and I were severally tempted and decided that we couldn’t get one through customs…like that was our biggest worry… customs… never mind the entire trip to Thailand or you know the month and a half I had in India…or all the logistics involved in having a puppy…those were not legitimate enough…..

China and Thailand love J. Beibs. It is kinda crazy. I never really heard any American music while in china except the beibs. Asia has beiber fever. Unfortunately.

Under the metro in Shanghai there is this mall type thing…except it is Asian. So it is full of neon colors mostly bright pink, tiny animals with big eyes, and all sort of cutesy things. We decided to take a look around, but it soon became a maze of all things Asian. Trying to get out was hard because the exit signs just pointed us to a neon arcade room. We were suck, never to escape the pink Asian world; finally we made it out and back up to street level. Pretty sure we had just visited another dimension that we’d prefer never to go back to…

At breakfast in Chiang Mai, our hotel played an awesome American soft rock cover cd. My personal favorite was the Bangles – Eternal Flame. What a way to start the day.

Lesson Learned- don’t lean against trees in the jungle…there are ants on them.

5 minutes into on our first train in Thailand, a train employee said – look. And then pointed to a train off the tracks out the window. ‘wreck. Happened yesterday…’ oh that is comforting thanks for showing us…

Friday, June 22, 2012

Let’s not say Goodbye

My older sister made me watch some ridiculous Barbara Streisand movie where her character always said ‘let’s not say goodbye but Au revoir”— saying goodbye was too final. Those are my feelings towards Thailand. Despite the craziness, despite the public transportation, despite totally getting ripped off (mostly in Bangkok), I can NOT wait to go back and explore more of Thailand.

In the name of getting the full cultural experience, my last day I got a Thai massage.  It was actually pretty fantastic. Though to be perfectly honest, I got it my last day because it took me the full two weeks to cowboy up enough. Thai massages are not the typical massage. Rather it is almost a massage plus physical therapy or intense stretching. You are pulled all sorts of ways and moved and realigned… after mine was finished not only did I feel relaxed but I also felt like I had just left a very light yoga class. I am slightly upset I was such a coward and did not get one earlier so I could have gotten a couple while in Thailand. Oh well. I guess I’ll have to go back….

After my massage, I packed up my things and got ready to catch the airport bus. My flight to Kolkata left early morning the next day from Bangkok so the train back wasn’t an option (LUCKILY) so I booked a flight back up to Bangkok and then booked a hotel right next to the airport with round trip transport to and from the airport. Oh my heavens. What a difference from the 7 levels of hell.

While I was waiting for the airport bus, the hotel manager brought me water, a banana, and half a pineapple. I love Thai people. So great. I ate my delicious fruit, got on the bus (which actually got there at the right time leaving me with a couple of hours at the airport, I took the earlier bus as a precaution), then boarded the flight. They gave us an actual smaller meal and then we landed 45 minutes later. I was picked up by the hotel and then taken the next morning for my flight to Kolkata...I was off to India.


Monday, June 18, 2012

Smart Cook

The next day I got up and had my banana pancake, then headed to the beach only to discover that the tide was so high that the waves were hitting the stairs leading down to the beach. I should really look into tide cycles. Since there was no beach to lie on, I walked around a bit just wandering. I planned to take a Thai cooking class that day because the weather wasn’t supposed to be fantastic. 

I was picked up at my hotel by ‘Bunny,’ my Thai cooking teacher. Turns outs out low season has its advantages. No one else signed up for cooking that day so I had a private session. The way Smart Cook- Thai cookery school worked, was each person picked out 7 dishes to cook. I chose spring rolls, hot & sour prawn soup, red curry paste which I then used to make red curry, pad thai, papaya salad, and fried bananas in coconut milk. Let me tell you. I am not too shabby of a cook because 1) they all came out without any disaster like setting things on fire or burning anything, and 2) it actually tasted really good. It also helped that Bunny was supervising the whole time. I think she was slightly worried when she saw me chopping. I am not the best. Plus it was a massive knife, and I was chopping with caution. I also was not allowed to put the spring rolls in the oil to fry. “Safety First.” Bunny said they don’t let tourists, I mean students fry them. I have a suspicion it might have been just me. Lol. Really I was ok with it. The less chance of injuring myself, the better.

We made each dish one at a time, starting with the curry paste. Bunny told me said to smile the whole time. If you smile things turn out tastier because you were happier while making it. I am still skeptical but what else is new. To make the curry paste, you basically put all of the ingredients in a stone mortar and smash away. The louder you are at smashing the better cook you are. Bunny says it also means you are better at something else, but I’ll leave it at that. After the curry paste, I was taught how to make spring rolls. We made baby ones. I am pretty awesome at rolling those little suckers. After spring rolls, it was hot & sour soup, and then pad thai. Then I ate that, not all of it clearly because it was a ton, but they bagged the extra so I could take it home. After that I made the red chicken curry, papaya salad, and bananas in coconut milk. For the papaya salad (and really any thai dish) how spicy you want it depends on how many times you hit a chili. If you don’t smash it, it won’t be very spicy at all, one hit, mild, two hits moderate to spicy, 3 +…yikes. The more you hit it the more the seeds and juices come out. I was a two-hit person.

After my cooking class, I decided I need a mortar and a wok. Which would bring my cooking supplies up substantially. Right now I own a George Forman, a tagine, a sushi rolling pad, and some mugs. Oh and an old fashion popcorn popper. Maybe I should invest in dishes before a mortar… eh.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

All by me Onesy

I love that part in pirates of the Caribbean. Where jack tells what a man can do and what a man can’t do. He could let Will drown but he can’t bring the ship into Tortuga all by his onesy. Savvy? Sometimes I wish I were a pirate. Then I could say savvy in everyday language.  Sorry. I’d just thought I’d give the background for my title choice. Moving on. 

Day 2 at the beaches consisted of a 4 island tour. I opted for the 4 island tour rather than the james bond island tour. (golden gun)

For breakfast I had a mango shake. (just mango and ice and awesomeness) and an egg pancake. Basically a crepe with an egg cooked in it. Oh and butter. I think I forgot what real butter tasted like. The day before I had a banana pancake with ‘milk’ on it. And by milk they mean sweetened condensed milk. Best thing of my life. Also only 20 baht. The mango shake was 25 baht. So breakfast for a dollar fifty. I may or may not have had a banana pancake everyday I was there. (oh and just an fyi, watermelon shakes are a bit trickier because they usually don’t seed them well, so you get bits o’watermelon seed shooting up your straw)

After my breakfast of champions, i got picked up for my tour and then waited for the whole group to get there. I befriended an English couple. Wendy and Aaron. They were nice. And about the only English speakers there. We got onto our little boat, and I moved to the back to be closer to my new found English friends. Big mistake. We were right next to motor, which put out a horrid smell of gas and was super bouncy. Normally I do pretty well with boats and don’t get motion sickness. However, the windows were blocked and I couldn’t see out. Yikes. I was not feeling well. To make matters worse, this is where I had the dreaded I’m my mother’s daughter moment.  When we pulled into our first island, I had to get off. HAD TO.  But I was in the back. Behind 22 people, mostly Asians and not a fan of water, so taking forever to get off. I became really claustrophobic and anxious and pretty sure I was going to be sick if I didn’t get off. I needed land and fresh air.  (my mom is terribly claustrophobic and hates being in small spaces. One time on a trip, my sister was suffering from motion sickness so my mom was going to ride in the back of our Toyota sienna and let my sister ride in the front. And by back I mean very back, not the captain seats. We had our doubts but she started back there so I started climbing in after her, she made it two seconds before she literally pushed me out of the car, so she could get out) I felt like shoving people out of the way to get out. Pretty sure I did a bit. Once out and I breathed. I felt much better. Still slightly unnerved that I am getting older and can’t handle certain situations anymore. Oh and am becoming my mother apparently.

The first thing I did on the island is jump into the water. I love water and swimming and would be a beach bum if it were a respectable profession. I then walked around and looked at a cave. Then went and lied in the sun until we had to leave to the next island. Pretty sure this is the best weather I had the entire trip. Blast the wet season.

We loaded back into the boat to head to Chicken Head island. There is a rock formation that looks like a chicken head. Having learned my lesson, I sat in the very front slightly outside the covering. Fresh Air. As we are leaving, the guide says ‘now we go into where the rain is, it will be fun’ I look ahead and there are massive rain clouds. As we got closer to the island it started raining. At first it felt good and a welcomed relief. Until the wind plus the speed of the boat made it so the rain was viciously pelting us. And since I was at the very front, I got quite a beating. I took refuge under a lifejacket and only occasionally looked through the armhole to see where we were. By the time we got to island the rain had passed and it was time for snorkeling!

Everyone was putting on lifejackets so I thought it was mandatory. The lifejacket lasted about 10 minutes before I did what every good lifeguard does… asked if I have to wear this… I didn’t. good thing too. I don’t know how to swim in them and every time I’d look down in the water and come up the life jacket would almost push me down back into the water. It was too big. Once I ditched the life jacket, snorkeling was much more enjoyable. There were lots of nemo fish and dori looking fish.

After snorkeling we had lunch and walked across the sandbar bridge (only possible at low tide) to the next island where we caught the boat to the next island. There we just walked around a bit before we headed back to the main island ready for a warm shower.

I love all things water.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

7 circles of hell

Circle 1: overnight train to Surat something. Not too bad. That is why it is the first       
circle. Overnight trains are just more uncomfortable than hellish. My train left around 5:05 pm.. I was sitting next to some monks and a nice old man so that was fun. One monk kept looking at me and smiling. I don’t know what that means.  This train was a little bit sketchier than the last one, which is saying something,.

Circle 2: This train had an actual toilet. I think the hole in the ground is better. 

Circle 3:  4:24. That is when the train was supposed to get into my stop. So of course I had to ‘wake up’ at 4ish to make sure I get all of my stuff together. I hate mornings as it is but trying to make sure I don’t miss a stop at 4:24 in the am is tricky…especially since I don’t speak Thai. Luckily the nice old man had his granddaughter with him, and she told me my stop wasn’t the last one and told the train employee to make sure I got off at the right stop. He did his job wonderfully. Of course the train didn’t get in at 4:24. I feel like instead of giving a specific time, they should just say ‘sometime tomorrow’ or ‘eventually’ in the arrival slot on the ticket. Since it wasn’t in on time, I fell somewhat back asleep and an hour later (only an hour late!!) the train guy pulled my curtains back and yelled ‘you! Off here!’ oh ok thank you. I managed to get off and find my way across the street to café where I needed to wait for my bus to Krabi.

Circle 4: Communication problems. So I got in around 5:30, and I had to check in with the bus people. Apparently my bus wasn’t until 7:40. And that was ‘too long wait.’ So the coordinator lady told me to take a bus into town at 6. The bus would only take 40 minutes and then a bus would leave at 7 to Krabi and the bus would take 2 and half hours. Sounds like a plan. So the first bit was right. I took a bus into the city; it took around 40 minutes. However, the bus to Krabi was not the nice big tour bus I had seen at the café. It was gHEtto. It was still Air Conditioned. So that was a tender mercy. Also. It left at 7:30. So instead of sitting at a café for an hour and 40 minutes where I could have ordered breakfast and used the FREE wi-fi…I rode on a bus for 40 minutes and then sat around for fifty minutes…to save 10 minutes. That lady and I aren’t friends.

Circle 5: The bus. The estimates I got were 2 and a half to 3 hours. So 10:30 ish I’ll be at the beach and relaxed. Wrong. Very very wrong. The bus was a public transport. So we stopped every 15 minutes to pick up someone or have someone put some cargo underneath the bus that they needed transported. So 10:30 came and went. And then we got stuck in the mud. They were doing road work somewhere and we had to get up this hill. We didn’t make it. We got stuck. So the bus had to essentially roll back down the hill with the you know cliff on the side, and try again. We finally made it up and on our way.

Circle 6: So apparently getting stuck in the mud is not good for an already worn out fan belt. Which is why our bus broke down. It was around 11:30 -12 and we were still 40 minutes outside of Krabi. We had to wait for a new bus which didn’t come until around 12:30 ish. At this point, I was a hot mess. I was on the 9th level of disgusting and know I smelt. After the new bus arrived we climbed on and headed for Krabi. And arrived without more incidents.

Circle 7: Oh wait. I am actually staying in Ao Nang. So now I climbed onto a truck thing with the other foreigners going to the beaches. We had to drop most people off at the pier where they took a ferry somewhere, then it was a 30 minute to 40 minute ride to my hotel. The only bonus was that there was ventilation because you know, you are sitting in the back of a truck. So I get to the hotel around 2. 2… 21 hours after my train left.  I check in, take a super long shower, get dressed, and head down to the beach. I am lying on the beach for 30 minutes tops and then a massive thunderstorm hits. Yay for day one at the beaches.

p.s. sorry for the whining, but I’m pretty sure Dante’s travels through purgatory was on Thai transportation. ok maybe a bit extreme….but really. 

Monday, June 11, 2012


The next day wasn’t much better. Well there was no rain. So that is something. Since it was Cori’s last day, I let her decide what to do. She decided on Victory Monument and then a park close by. Victory Monument was quick, we could just view it from the skytrain. So off to the park that turned out to be a military base and people aren’t allowed in. Frustrated by the 30 minute walk to the park, Cori decides to get a tuk tuk back to the skytrain. The tuk tuk driver takes us to the sky hotel instead. I think this may have been the last straw between Bangkok and Cori. They were not friends. We found our way to a skytrain and then headed to the malls that seemed like something interesting. But I think we were just done at that point. Plus Cori had a ridiculously early flight so we went back to hotel so Cori could pack and get everything in order. After packing, we got some dinner and watched a movie on my laptop. Cori left at 3:30 in the am. I said bye and went back to sleep. 

My train to the beaches didn’t leave until around 5 so I met up with my sister’s friend I’d met a couple of times who was living in Bangkok. Maybe he could show me around, and Bangkok and I could be friends again. So we met at the skytrain closest to my hotel and decided what to do. He was a little sad I had already ‘done’ the touristy things. I was sad I didn’t think to ask him to show us to them. Maybe it would have been less of a disaster. Though I got a good story out of huh? That is what adventures are—things gone terribly wrong and then seem funny afterwards. I’ve had plenty of adventures. Anyway. The first stop was a mall.  On the way, I explained I hadn’t had any street food in Thailand, which apparently was quite blasphemous. I think it became his personal mission to get me to try as much street food as possible. We stopped and got frozen ovaltine. So delicious. Pretty much iced hot chocolate. Then we were at the mall. Cori and I went to the ritzy mall with all of the overpriced stores. Jake took me to the one that had Thai clothes, and accessories. I was tempted to buy some plastic fruit headbands or the ones with the massive stuffed bird on top for friends (Nikki). Classy.

After the mall, we went to lunch. There was a restaurant near Jake’s where he of course ordered because I don’t speak Thai. The food was really good but like most of Thailand’s food very spicy. I have a knack for picking out the spiciest things on the menu. I suppose it is a gift. America gives a false sense of security when it comes to spicy foods because Asian restaurants tone down the spicy for white people. In Thailand, not so much. We even ordered it not spicy. If that was the non-spicy version I don’t even want to try the real version. Although, I handle my spice a little better than Jake. He teared up a bit. I tried not to judge. After lunch we went to the Thailand culture center, which he had never been to and seemed interesting. On the way, he bought lily plant pods that have seeds you have to peel and eat. Quite the task. Again. More street food. The culture center turned out to be closed because it was lunchtime, so we tried feeding the fish some lily seeds. They didn’t like them. After that we went to Chinatown and went to another temple. There, Jake got chrysanthemum juice or as he called it flower juice. It was incredibly sweet. Like when you are a kid and make kool-aid and 1 cup of sugar can’t possibly be right so you add 4…sweet. I couldn’t handle it. So Jake took the diabetic hit for the team and finished mine.

 After the brief visit to Chinatown, we somehow ended up in the red light district. It was during the day so it wasn’t bad. I wouldn’t have noticed really well minus the one side street that had all of the exotic dancer signs. We quickly made our way to the skytrain where we were going to ride past THE robot building. Jake had been talking about it all day. On the train, he pointed out exactly where it was going to be and the best view and see how that part looks like bolts? The highlight of the Bangkok tour— buildings that look like robots. Well robot buildings and street food.

After that we headed back to my skytrain stop, said goodbye, and I went to the hotel to gather my things and get to the train station for my solo trip to the beach leaving Bangkok on somewhat agreeable terms.